You may have never heard of Van Rysel, but we will forgive you for that. It’s not like many folk follow the ins and outs of Decathlon’s branding movements In short, it’s the new in-house brand for the massive French sports supermarket and it replaces the old B-Twin badge with a fresh range of designs and a new benchmark when it comes to value for money.
Granted, aluminium frames and external cabling don’t go down particularly well with the tubby folk who sip flat whites outside of trendy bicycle cafes, but what they don’t realise is that it allows a company of Decathlon’s magnitude to spend budget where it matters to many: namely in the groupset and components. As a result, this road bike almost makes it into our best cheap road bikes under £1,000 list – but we cheated and went for the most tricked-out version that Decathlon sells.
Even so, bagging Shimano’s awesome Ultegra drivetrain and powerful rim brakes on a bike that costs under £1,500 is still a rare and wonderful thing. Yet the EDR AF goes one step beyond, delivering a riding experience that shatters all initial expectations. Yes, the frame is made from – gasp! – aluminium, but this bike manages to delivers a sharp, sporty ride that feels like every watt pushed through the pedals actually counts.
It’s a lively machine that’s powered by Shimano’s high end drivetrain. It will match the power of most riders and thanks to its aluminium frame, there’s a distinct lack of flex that equates to better power delivery on the whole. If you can make do with a brand that no one has really heard of, this is a great buy.
Van Rysel EDR AF: price and release date
The Van Rysel EDR AF is on sale now. The model we tested costs £1,499. It is seen as a men's bike and is therefore better suited to male riders but Decathlon does offer female frames, too. Take a look at the bike at Decathlon.
- Shield your eyes from the sun with The best cycling sunglasses
- Protect your head with the best bike helmets
Van Rysel EDR AF: the frame
Using a variable thickness approach and 6061 aluminium, Decathlon and Van Rysel have managed to produce an incredibly durable and comfortable road bike that weighs around 8.6kg. This is easily as light, if not lighter than rival carbon fibre bikes that cost much more to buy… and they tend to come with cheaper groupsets.
With oversized and squared off tubes, it certainly looks the part, but it is let down slightly by its cable placement. Decathlon claims the decision was made to leave all of the cabling externally routed for ease of maintenance, which is a fair point, but it was probably just cheaper to produce a bike this way. I’ll have to admit, dangly cables look rather dated on a road bike produced in 2021 and there is a counter argument that all the crud flung up from the road onto said cables only serves to damaged them quicker, but hey ho. Semantics. It still looks good.
As with many brands, Van Rysel offers the frame in XS to XL sizes, with a very rough online sizing tool to help you get the right fit. It’s merely a case of inputting height and it pumps out a vague frame size. This could troublesome for anyone with longer arms, shorter legs, a lengthier trunk or any combination of those things.
That said, the overall geometry is fairly relaxed, with a short reach and forgiving head and seat tube angles meaning you don’t have to ride folded in half. The bike has been designed with high mileage in mind and it really shows when you throw a leg over the frame. But that’s not to say that it’s lazy and sluggish like other steel and ally bikes can be. There’s enough pep in this machine to bring out the inner Chris Froome in anyone.
There’s only one choice of paint job here (snow white & black), but the EDR AF looks sharp AF with its oversized and squared-off tubes, sleek paint finish and subtle Fulcrum Racing wheels. These certainly aren’t the best rims out there, but they are perfectly adept at soaking up bumps and roll fairly well. Plus, upgrading these is simple and should be first thing on the “to-do” list.
- Prefer venturing off-road? You need the best electric mountain bike
Van Rysel EDR AF: the kit
Shimano’s Ultegra groupset is the biggest talking point here, as it includes the 11S 11x32 cassette, the R8000 50x34 crankset and powerful matching R8000 rim brakes. It’s the beating heart of the bike and feels like excellent quality for such an affordable machine. There’s nothing worse than cheap gearing that sputters and misfires through a morning ride or underpowered brakes when the weather turns sour.
That said, much of the budget has been blown here, so owners will have to make do with own-brand aluminium handlebars, a Van Rysel oversized stem and a Van Rysel Sport 900 saddle with aluminium post.
None of these things are particularly special, but they are perfectly adequate for most roads and rank among the easiest and most affordable assets to replace, should you need something comfier under your bum or something a little more performance orientated in your hands. However, they do feel robust and there is none of that awful carbon creak and slipping of carbon seat tubes here. It’s solid stuff.
The Fulcrum Racing 4 aluminium wheels weigh 1725g per pair, which seems featherweight on the surface but falls a fair way behind some of the high end performance wheels out there. Out on the road, they ride fine, but there is a noticeable difference in speed and the transfer of power when you swap them out for a set of quality, lightweight aero rims. Again, the wheels are likely something many owners will look to replace at some point .
The Hutchinson tyres are fairly entry level too, but again it is easy enough to swap these for something from Schwalbe or Goodyear, which will not only give more grip, but also a little more speed and cushioning over bumps.
Van Rysel EDR AF: the ride
I’ll hold my hands up, I didn’t expect too much from the Van Rysel EDR AF given its price point and the fact that it comes from the typically cheap and cheerful Decathlon catalogue, but it’s a good lesson in not judging a book by its cover.
Immediately comfortable and easy to gel with, the Van Rysel EDR AF manages to blend fairly comfortable geometry with the ability to adopt a sporty riding position when the mood takes. And the mood will take, because the solid frame and bottom bracket feels like it will take every watt thrown at it and transfer it all out pace. It’s easy to ride fast on this machine and this is a machine that will encourage the odd sprint.
Settle into a more comfortable pace and the 11x32 cassette offers a decent spread of gears that shouldn’t leave you wanting for more on the climbs. The weak link in this otherwise solid offering is the wheel set, which definitely could be improved upon and general don’t feel stiff enough to transfer power properly. The aluminium hubs and bearings are also going to fall some way behind more premium players, but then a good set of wheels aren’t cheap.
The entire time you’re riding this bike you have to remind yourself that it costs less than £1,500, yet still manages to offer some brilliant components from top names. Ribble’s Endurance AL Disc arguably goes one better by offering disc brakes, but then it only packs Shimano's 105 groupset.
I’d argue it’s worth leaving the disc brakes on the shelf for the Ultegra offered on Decathlon’s sweet road bike set-up, although Ribble’s steel-framed 725 Enthusiast is also worth a look if you simply want a cool alternative to the carbon fibre crowd.
Van Rysel EDR AF: the verdict
It’s impossible to find big name brands that offer an aluminium frame like this with the same excellent components for a similar price. Decathlon’s buying power means it has been able to secure Shimano’s brilliant Ultegra groupset and still keep the cost down.
Typically, this would be at the expense of the frame and other elements of the finishing kit, but in this instance, everything fits nicely together and gives the impression of a solid package that belies its price point.
The only issue Decathlon has is the branding, which is still relatively new to the cycling world. Ribble, arguably its closest rival, is now an established name and anyone out on the open road knows they offer quality products. Van Rysel needs to prove itself in a congested market and convince buyers that it’s worth parting with the extra dosh over its basic Triban bikes.